Corporate agitator Carl Icahn is stepping up his public campaign to twist Apple CEO Tim Cook to repurchase $150 billion in Apple stock in an effort to force the company to fork over more cash to shareholders.
In a detailed letter sent to Cook Wednesday, and posted to Icahn's newly launched The Shareholders Square Table website Thursday, Icahn said the buyback would be "unprecedented" in size and could appreciate Apple's current stock value of $525 a share by 33 percent to around $1,250.
Icahn, who is no stranger to public haranguing via the Internet, tweeted about his buyback plan back in early October. On Wednesday, he stepped up the tweets: "Just sent a letter to Tim Cook. Full letter will be disclosed on my website, the Shareholders' Square, which will be launched tomorrow."
"I don't think it's such a bad idea," said Nick Gold, director of business development at Chesapeake Systems, a Baltimore, Md.-based system builder that traditionally integrates around the Apple Mac platform. Gold said he thinks Icahn's prodding is a plus with the only repercussions being increased share price. "It's a free country, and Icahn is exercising his right to free speech."
In the letter, Icahn disclosed that he has raised his stake in Apple to 4.7 million shares, up 22 percent from just under 3.9 million. Icahn now has a $2.5 billion stake in Apple. Icahn said his impetus is to buy shares back and urge Apple to do the same in an effort to boost the stock price and allow shareholders to realize more cash from their investment.
In a jab at the Apple board, Icahn said it had a responsibility to increase shareholder value.
"Apple’s Board of Directors does not currently include an individual with a track record as an investment professional. In my opinion, any further delay in executing the buyback we hereby propose will reflect this lack of expertise on the board. My firm’s success and my expertise as an investor would be difficult for anyone to argue."
Apple partners see Icahn's actions as a sideshow that has little impact on their business. "He's doing it for his own benefit and profit. He's manipulating the stock indirectly," said Jerry Zigmont, owner of MacWorks, an Apple consultant based in Madison, Conn.
Zigmont said Icahn's Apple pronouncements were purely "self-serving" and just a well-choreographed stunt. "He has met with Cook privately in the past and can meet with him again. I don't understand the letter. Is it to pressure other investors to put pressure on Tim Cook? I don't know."
Icahn, to dispel impressions he is after short-term gains, said he would withhold his shares from the proposed $150 billion tender offer.
Apple share climbed 6.95 points on Thursday to $531.91 a share.
PUBLISHED OCT. 24, 2013